Homeless in Karachi

Ayesha Shahid

During the early 1980s while watching an Indian movie on the VCR, a Pakistani child in Karachi pointed to the television screen and asked how come all those people in movie slept on footpaths? She had not seen anything like that where she lived. It was then explained to her that poverty was rampant in India. Glad that she wasn’t an Indian, she kept living in her bubble of ignorant bliss thinking that she would never have to see anything of the sort in her own country. But today, we see similar scenes of destituteness around where we live.
There are families living under bridges and flyovers, there are men, women and even children asleep on footpaths and under trees. They have nowhere to go. They have no home Either from exhaustion or maybe too weak from hunger, a man sloops on a footpath under a big old shady tree in old Clifton for bedding he uses gunny bags and an old pillow he most probably fished out from a garbage heap nearby, which he had wrapped up in a plastic bag to keep it under his head. Driving further up the road and turning left is shrine of Hazrat Abdullah Shah Ghazi, where you see countless people on footpath. Many among them are devotees visiting from some other cities and towns. While buying eatables from roadside vendors and answering nature’s calls in some obscure corner which they can find nearby, they would be leaving soon as fresh groups arrive to take their place.
The rest are homeless folk with a number of drug addicts among them. Those who cannot afford to buy food can always queue up for free food being offered as niaz at the lungar at the shrine itself. Otherwise, they can always go for meals at any of the centres of NGOs looking after this necessary need that lies nearest to them such as Saylani, Edhi, Chippa, Alamgir Welfare Trust etc. An old woman sits on the footpath with three plastic bags full of her belongings. Someone who is just passing by may take her for someone waiting for the bus but a Regular in the area would soon realize that she sits there on the very same spot every day.

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